Los Angeles – Private Airport – Day
The white Council jet, coat of arms on the tail, taxied to a stop on a hot, hazy Southern California day. Once the plane had come to a complete stop, the hatch popped open and a set of fold-out stairs lowered to the ground.
Buffy appeared in the opening and surveyed the scene, breathing in the familiar, smoggy air. “God, I missed this weather.” She began to make her way down the stairs.
Willow followed her. “I don’t know. I think I’m starting to get used to October feeling like…October.”
“Really?” Xander asked skeptically from behind both girls.
Willow shook her head. “Nah.”
As Andrew, Tracey, Faith and Robin also made their way down the stairs, Buffy shaded her eyes with one hand. She squinted to see a stretch limo driving towards her over the tarmac. The vehicle slowed smoothly to a stop near the group.
“Nice,” Robin nodded approvingly.
“My baby gets a limo,” Tracey said, proudly wrapping her arms around Andrew.
“Technically, I think the limo is at least partly for me, Kiddo,” Faith pointed out.
A door opened and a short, thin, clean-cut man stepped out of the limo. He spoke rapid-fire into the cell phone that seemed to be glued to his ear.
“Well, talk to the union, don’t talk to me. No, no…Morrie, listen to me, a security guard quitting for no reason is not my responsibility. I don’t care what he said…then talk to Variety, but let them know this is an isolated incident. We get tagged as a ‘troubled shoot,’ we’ll never live it down. I don’t want excuses, Morrie, I need you to make it happen. Let’s go, let’s go.”
Willow jumped a little when the man angrily snapped his cell phone shut and instantly turned on a high-wattage smile. “This the group from the Council?”
“Yeah,” Buffy began, “um, I’m Buffy Summers, and this is…”
“I know who you are,” the man said brusquely. He quickly shook Buffy’s hand. “Quite a grip you’ve got there. I’m Ricky Silverberg, I’ll be your contact while you’re here. You need anything while you’re here, ham sandwich, bowl of all-green M&Ms, bottled holy water, high-class hooker, just let me know.”
“Just a ride will be fine, Ricky, thanks,” Willow said.
“So what was that about on the phone?” Tracey asked him, as the gang piled into the limo.
“What?” Ricky asked, distracted. “Oh, nothing, nothing. Have you ever met Orlando Bloom before?”
“Nope,” Tracey admitted.
“Oh, cool, seltzer water,” Andrew’s voice exclaimed from inside the limo.
Stage 3 – Day
Ricky led the group to a small, nondescript black door set into what appeared to be a long, gray, featureless warehouse wall.
“This is Hollywood?” Faith asked. “Looks more like a potential vamp nest to me.”
“Is there a difference?” Robin asked.
Ricky opened the door, which had a large “Stage 3” painted on it in white, and impatiently motioned the group through.
As soon as the group was inside the door, they all came screeching to a halt.
“What the…?” Buffy managed.
“Holy déjà vu, Batman,” Xander added. Willow nodded silently, her mouth hanging open slightly.
The gang stood in front of what was, to the naked eye, Buffy’s house from Sunnydale. Members of a film crew bustled around the structure, readying it for the day’s shoot.
“See anything you recognize?” Ricky asked.
“Perks of being famous, B,” Faith said with a grin. “You blow up your house, people pay you for the privilege of rebuilding it.”
“Unfortunately, many of the key locations from your war were destroyed in the battle,” Ricky explained, “so we were forced to recreate them here for a boatload of cash. Our set designers have gone to great pains to maintain the accuracy of the piece. In addition to the Summers home, we’ve so far completed construction on the Sunnydale High School set and the nightclub set.”
“The Bronze?” Xander asked. Ricky nodded. Xander elbowed Buffy in the ribs. “The Bronze lives!” She nodded, still looking like she was in shock.
“Anybody want to see the inside?” Ricky asked.
Stage 3 – Summers House Set – Moments Later
Ricky held Buffy’s front door open as the Council delegation entered. The staring continued as the inside of the house turned out to be as faithful a reconstruction as the outside.
“So…this is what your house looked like?” Tracey asked Buffy. Buffy just nodded. She had walked over to a cabinet and was running her hand over the photographs sitting on top of it.
“Am I the only one, really, really creeped out right now?” Willow asked. She sat down on the couch by the window only to find that it moved when she put her weight on it.
“Everything in here is on wheels,” Ricky explained, “so they can be moved easily.”
“I think this is fascinating,” Robin remarked, opening Buffy’s weapons cabinet to find it fully stocked.
Suddenly, Buffy whipped around to face Ricky. “How did you do it?”
He shook his head in confusion. “I’m sorry?”
“This is my house, except for the part where it’s a movie set. My house was destroyed, along with all of this stuff. I didn’t tell you what it looked like, and we didn’t save any pictures. So where did you –”
“Mr. Wells here was kind enough to provide us with a video record of the locations,” Ricky said. “It was really very helpful to our designers.”
“Wait…this is all from that stupid video you were narrating in the bathroom?” Xander asked.
Andrew nodded eagerly. “They’re thinking of putting it on the DVD as a special feature.” He turned to Ricky. “Speaking of which, I’ve been meaning to talk to the director about some of the decisions that have been made regarding the script. I’m not really sure if –”
“Yeah, maybe later,” Ricky told him. Andrew opened his mouth to press his case, but Robin stopped him with a hand on the shoulder.
Andrew sighed. “Later, right.”
Nearby, Faith held up a vase. “Hey, B, is this the one I broke over your head?”
Buffy shook her head. “No, I think that’s the one that got broken by that monster we accidentally unleashed when I went to that shadow dimension.”
“That’s right,” Xander agreed. A far-off look appeared in his eyes. “Those were… good times.”
Stage 3 – The Bronze Set – Later
As the gang walked into the movie set version of the Bronze, Andrew nodded his head in satisfaction. “Great job on the authenticity, guys.”
Buffy glanced up at the balcony that overlooked the stage. “It’s exactly how I remember it.”
“Except for the movie stars hanging out by the stairs,” Willow pointed out. “That part’s new.”
Sure enough, several members of the cast of Slayers: The Chosen were chatting at a table next to the stairs to the balcony. A tall African-American man noticed the Council group and got to his feet.
“Hey, over here!” Samuel L. Jackson called, motioning for the group to come closer.
“Who are we to refuse the King of Cool?” Xander grinned, and they made their way over.
Ricky Silverberg made the introductions. “Sam, this is Robin Wood, Faith Lehane, Willow Rosenberg, Buffy Summers and Xander Harris.”
“It’s an honor to finally meet you,” Jackson said. He grabbed Robin’s extended hand and gave it a hearty shake. He leaned forward to speak directly to Robin. “We’ve got a lot to talk about.” Robin grinned and gave Faith a significant look. She glowered in return, but the smile threatening on her face revealed that she was only half serious.
Jackson noticed Andrew and Tracey’s presence. “And you are…?”
“I’m the writer,” Andrew proclaimed proudly.
“Right.” Jackson did not sound enthused. “Nice to meet you.”
“And I’m sure Ms. Holmes requires no introduction,” Ricky continued. The brunette had gotten up from her seat at the table to greet the gang. She opened her mouth to introduce herself to Faith, but came up short at the finger stuck in her face.
“I do not want to hear about L. Ron Hubbard,” Faith said sternly. Holmes, looking a little stunned, nodded silently and sank back into a chair.
Buffy leaned over to whisper in Willow’s ear. “Why don’t you go over and introduce yourself?” Willow’s eyes widened, and she shook her head vigorously. “That’s my Will,” Buffy grinned. “She’s capable of facing down Gods, but turns to putty in the face of hot, famous chicks.”
Willow opened her mouth to say something in return, but was interrupted by a red-headed young woman with a wide smile. “Miss Rosenberg?”
“That’s me,” Willow replied.
“I’m so happy to finally get to meet you,” the woman said, vigorously shaking Willow’s hand. “This whole thing is just so huge for me.”
“That’s…great,” Willow replied, confusion showing through in her voice. “Um…who are you?”
The woman was a little startled by the question, but recovered quickly. “Oh! I’m, um, I’m Sara Rue.” This still didn’t register with Willow. “I’m playing you…y’know, in the movie.”
Willow took this in for a moment. “Oh. Oh!” She examined the woman more closely. She was a little chunky by Hollywood standards, though not really by normal people’s standards. “Really?”
“Hey,” Xander asked, “were you on that sitcom that one time?”
Rue’s features settled into a resigned smirk. “Yeah, probably.”
Robin and Samuel L. Jackson were deep in conversation. “I’m not sure how to play that scene, you know, because the night before you go into a battle that you’re almost certainly going to lose, any normal person would be scared out of their wits. The director wants it to be this very tender scene, love at first sight between you and Faith, but my first instinct was to play it badass. What do you think?”
“I would go with your gut,” Robin replied sagely.
Meanwhile, Faith and Katie Holmes sat side-by-side, engulfed in uncomfortable silence.
“So…how’s Suri?” Faith asked.
Ricky Silverberg was speaking to Andrew and Tracey at the edge of the Bronze’s stage. “Mr. McKellen’s around here somewhere,” Ricky said. “I’m sure you’ll get to meet him.”
“At least something might go right today,” Andrew sighed.
Tracey slapped her forehead in frustration. “Oh my God! I left my Lord of the Rings poster on the plane.” Ricky shook his head in confusion. “For him to sign,” Tracey clarified, her tone sounding like she was talking to an idiot.
Ricky nodded in understanding. He pointed to a passing stagehand. “Hey, you, find me Mr. McKellen, and can I get a Cherry Coke for Mr. Wells?”
Sara Rue was still talking to Buffy, Willow, and Xander. “I’m a little nervous about some of the scenes, but overall it’s been a great experience so far. I mean, what girl wouldn’t kill to spend this much time with Orlando Bloom?”
“Orl–Orlando Bloom?” Buffy stammered, almost doing a double take. “He’s here?”
“Who’s star-struck now?” Willow whispered haughtily.
“Yeah,” Sara Rue said. “He’s playing Spike. You two knew each other, right?”
All eyes turned to Buffy. “Yeah, yeah, we knew each other. It’s um…huh. Orlando Bloom? That’s good casting, really. Uncanny resemblance, now that I think about it. Hey, is he here?”
“I think he has the day off today,” Sara Rue told her.
“Oh, well, that’s too bad,” Buffy said. “I could have…given him some perspective on the part.” She noticed the looks Willow and Xander were giving her. “What?”
“Nothing,” Willow began innocently. “You’re such a little – Hey, is that Jocelyn O’Hara?”
Indeed, the young blonde girl was walking briskly towards them across the floor of the set. In her hand she held a heavily dog-eared copy of the script that looked like it had been highlighted within an inch of its life.
“I’m so sorry I’m late,” Jocelyn announced, sounding a little out of breath. “I was going over my lines again, and then I got so nervous about that love scene that we’re shooting today, and then things just started floating around in my trailer and…Hi, Katie!” She waved awkwardly in the direction of Katie Holmes, who returned the gesture half-heartedly.
Happy to have a distraction, Faith got to her feet. “Jocelyn? What the he– um, heck are you doing here?” Robin raised an eyebrow at her discretion.
“I’m in the movie,” Jocelyn told them excitedly. “I’m playing Miss Summers.”
There was a long moment of silence under the stairs at the Bronze. Andrew’s Cherry Coke was stuck on pause halfway up to his mouth.
“I’m playing you?” Buffy asked, shock evident in her voice. “No, wait, I mean…”
“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you guys,” Jocelyn said, “but this has all just happened so fast. I mean, when my parents hired an agent, I never thought anything would come of it, but then there was this audition, and it turns out that my experience with the supernatural was a big asset in the eyes of the producers.”
“Experience with the supernatural?” Buffy asked Willow quietly. “She took half a month of classes before school suddenly went out for summer.”
“Something tells me that’s not her only asset,” Willow replied.
“What are you –?” Buffy looked at Jocelyn, then looked self-consciously down at her own chest for a moment before shaking her head to snap out of it. “Willow, the girl’s seventeen!”
Tracey looked skeptical. “So they cast the lead with a complete unknown?” She shook her head. “You’d think they would have learned their lesson from Superman Returns.”
The wheels in Buffy’s head were visibly turning. “You only went missing a few days ago. I don’t know as much about the business as you guys do, but that seems like really late to be casting the starring role in a huge production like this.”
“Oh, I’m not the star,” Jocelyn said modestly. “Katie has the lead role. I’m just hoping to make an impression in a supporting part.”
Buffy’s eyes widened, and she bit her lip. She turned towards Andrew, looking like she was on the verge of an outburst.
“It’s out of my hands!” Andrew shouted preemptively in a high, panicked voice. “The studio, they keep changing things! I swear!”
Samuel L. Jackson leaned towards Robin. “Is he always like this?”
Robin nodded. “Pretty much, yeah.”
Jackson just shook his head. “Writers.”
Watchers Council – Exercise Room – Same Time
“That’s very interesting,” Rowena said, jotting something down on a clipboard she was holding.
“I know I’m interesting,” Skye gasped, leaning forward onto the control panel of the exercise treadmill on which she stood. Her forehead was covered in sweat from the effort she had been exerting. “Which of the many ways I am interesting were you referring to?”
“Your speed increased markedly immediately after you consumed blood,” Rowena said. “It appears that blood actually does give vampires greater capabilities.”
“Speaking of, may I?” As Skye stepped down from the treadmill, she motioned to a thermos sitting on a bench next to Rowena. The watcher nodded absent-mindedly, and Skye grabbed the container, taking a long swig. When she finished drinking, Skye’s face had changed into that of a vampire. “I coulda told you that,” she said. “Remember when you watcher types finally figured me out, and I drank from that crazy slayer? Presto, instant super powers.”
“First of all, you just got a boost from pig’s blood,” Rowena pointed out. “Not on the same scale of course, but an increase nonetheless.”
“I was trying not to notice,” Skye said. Her features reverted back to human, and she made a face.
“Second of all,” Rowena continued, “now I have hard data. For years, everything we’ve known about vampires has been from hearsay, usually from the diary of someone who was slightly mentally unstable.”
“You mean a watcher?” Skye asked.
“Occasionally.” Rowena allowed herself a small smile. “There’re so many questions we don’t know the answers to. For example, why are you gasping for breath right now?”
“Because you just ran me ragged,” Skye said, sounding like she was talking to a two-year-old.
“But do you really need air?” Rowena asked. “Is that why you have the hard breathing after exertion?” Skye shrugged. “You see what I mean? You’re a vampire, and you don’t even know. And it seems to vary by vampire.”
“Xander said that Angel couldn’t revive Buffy when she faced the Master. He had no breath, so Xander had to do CPR. But Buffy and Faith both said that Spike smoked cigarettes – that means he had to be able to inhale, meaning he could take a breath. So why can one vamp breathe while another can’t?”
“Beats me,” Skye replied. “All I know is I’m exhausted at the moment.”
“Hmm, well, first things first. Finding out for sure that a vampire gets a physical advantage from drinking blood is the first step towards finding out why a vampire needs blood, and that could be important. I only wish…” she trailed off.
“Only wish what?” Skye asked, taking another sip of pig’s blood.
“The data’s not any good without a control group,” Rowena explained.
“A vampire that’s not drinking blood,” Skye supplied. One of Rowena’s eyebrows went up. “What? I’m not stupid,” Skye huffed. “I got an A in AP Bio and Psych, I’ll have you know. Anyway, you won’t find any of those fool enough to volunteer. That’d just be torture.”
“Well, actually, we don’t know for certain what…” Rowena saw the look Skye was giving her. “I know, I know, it’d be cruel and unusual punishment. I’m not a monster, and I won’t make you do it against your will if you’ve reconsidered.”
Skye said nothing and took another sip of blood.
“It’d sure be nice, though,” Rowena said wistfully.
Skye shook her head and then pointed a finger at Rowena.
“I might be the vampire, but lady, you’re truly scary sometimes.” Rowena just grinned as she looked at her notes. “However, I did make a promise to help where I could,” Skye added. “So when do I start starving myself?”
“Not just yet,” Rowena answered.
“Well then, cheers,” Skye said, holding up her thermos and taking a drink.
“So, tell me…?” Rowena began.
“What?” Skye asked.
“What’s it like? Getting vamped, I mean,” Rowena asked as she readied her pen to start writing.
“I can’t speak for everyone but…you feel helpless.”
“Explain,” Rowena motioned with the pen.
Skye shrugged. “When it started, the first thing I felt was fear. I was scared for my life, and I thought that was it, you know? Like I was going to die, so I fought back as best as I could but…he was just too strong, overpowering, and that’s when the helplessness slipped in.” Skye paused for a moment, a far-off look in her eyes. “When that happens, you just go numb, limp…you just…you wait for it to be over because there’s no sense in fighting. You can’t win, so what’s the point? All you can hope is that it’s over quickly and that soon you’ll have peace again. But…peace doesn’t come, because you’re different. You’ve been changed, against your will…” Skye paused again and seemed to come back to where she was sitting. She looked over at Rowena and nodded at her clipboard. “You gonna write any of this down? Or am I just talking to hear my voice?” she asked.
Rowena seemed startled by the question. “Uh, yeah,” she replied, as she started to scribble on the paper in front of her.
“Anyway,” Skye continued. “I’m not sure anyone can understand how it really feels unless it’s happened to them personally, ya know?”
“Yeah, I-I follow you,” Rowena said softly, looking back up at Skye. “It, uh, it seems to parallel what rape victims report actually.”
Skye nodded. “I never thought of it that way, but I suppose you’re right. I mean, you would understand better than me, wouldn’t you?” she added knowingly. Rowena looked back down at her notes quickly. “No snide comments,” Skye said quickly. “I’m soulless, not heartless. And I know what that feels like, having something taken from you, so no jokes. But it does make me bring up a question of my own.”
“What?” Rowena asked.
“How do you move beyond it?” Skye asked. “How do you find your peace after something like that?”
Rowena grinned. “The love and patience of a good woman is what helped me most,” she answered.
“Say what you will, Watcher-lady,” Skye began with a grin, “but it seems like you and I have much more in common than either one of us realized. Now whether the good woman I found will continue to have patience and someday love me…again…well, guess I’ll have to wait and see.”
“Yes, but how long are you willing to wait?” Rowena asked.
“As long as it takes. Me and Dawn…we’re not getting any older, so I’ve got lots of time. Unless, of course, you decide your final experiment with me is the reaction of wood to a vamp heart.”
“I have no intention of killing you, Skye…unless you give me a reason to,” Rowena said.
Skye held up her hands in front of her. “It’s all good,” she grinned.
Rowena grinned too. “Ready to do some more laps?”
Skye sighed. “Yes,” she whined, “but I think I’m getting shin splints, just so you know.”
“Last time. I swear,” Rowena replied. “Maybe after this, I’ll have you swim.”
“A triathlon. Oh goodie,” Skye replied sarcastically, but she was still grinning.
Stage 3 Lot – Sunnydale High Set – Later
Buffy sat dejectedly next to Xander on the steps of Sunnydale High, her elbows on her knees and her head in her hands. Jocelyn was standing on the warehouse floor in front of them, trying to explain herself.
“I tried the magic thing,” she was saying, “but I’m not sure it was really working out. I’ve always been interested in theater, though. I was Christine in the Westlake High production of The Phantom of the Opera, at least until I accidentally set the chandelier on fire.”
Buffy did not respond. Xander put his arm around his friend’s shoulders and looked up at Jocelyn. “You’ll have to excuse her. She’s just having a bad day.”
Jocelyn put on her best empathetic face. “Y’know, reading the script, what I was really struck by was how hard it must have been for you.”
Buffy looked up. “Really?”
“Yeah,” Jocelyn said. “I mean, being in Faith’s shadow all that time? That must have been tough.”
Buffy buried her face in her hands with a groan.
Tracey and Andrew stood by the Craft Services table nearby, munching on a bowl of all-green M&Ms.
“I’m going to go see if I can find the director,” he told her. “This Ricky guy isn’t any help.”
Tracey nodded and watched as he walked away.
A burly crewmember brushed past her to pick up a sandwich. “Excuse me.”
Tracey eyed him as he bit into his sandwich. “Crazy shoot, huh?”
“Oh, yeah,” he nodded. “I mean, talk about your fast-track productions.” He motioned to the façade in front of them. “We built that school in two weeks. This thing is gonna have to make a killing at the box office to break even.”
“Speaking of killing,” Tracey said, leaning casually against the table, “how about that security guard?”
“You mean the one who quit?” the crew member said. “Yeah, I heard about him. Said he saw something on the set.”
“Saw something?” Tracey asked.
“Okay!” Ricky Silverberg said suddenly from over Tracey’s shoulder. “Lunch break’s over, Jerry.” The crew member glared at the slick assistant, but took his sandwich elsewhere. Ricky turned to glare at Tracey. “What are you doing?”
“I’m just –”
“This doesn’t concern you, Miss Hausser,” Ricky said severely. He instantly produced a wide, fake smile. “You’re on a Hollywood set.” He gave Tracey a hearty slap on the shoulder. “Enjoy yourself!”
As Tracey frowned and rubbed her shoulder, Ricky’s phone rang, and he immediately flipped it open and put it to his ear. “Go.” He walked away from Tracey as he listened to the caller. “I don’t care about your problems, Morrie, all that matters is that the Director is happy. Is the Director happy?”
Ricky turned a corner around the side of Sunnydale High and suddenly found himself alone. “Look, you’re already killing me with this budget. We’re going to have to make do with the weapons we have.”
He failed to notice the low growling noise coming from somewhere nearby.
“Who’s going to know if the swords are inauthentic? The whole town collapsed into a giant hole. It’s not like there’s a bunch of Battle of Sunnydale re-enactors out there to correct us, right? You’re killing me here.”
As the source of the growling came closer, Ricky turned around. His eyes widened at what he saw. “What the –?”
Surprise turned into screams when a swipe from a set of sharp claws sent Ricky to the ground. The claws belonged to an ugly, crouching figure with bat-like features. Panicked, Ricky tried to crawl away on his knees.
The Turok-Han let out a triumphant roar and jumped forward to attack.
End of Act Two